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05/19/10 6:51 PM ET

Donnelly likely to return on Thursday

PITTSBURGH -- Manager John Russell will regain one of his late-inning relief options on Thursday when Brendan Donnelly is activated off the 15-day disabled list. Russell confirmed on Wednesday that the transaction will likely be made prior to Thursday's game.

Donnelly, who hasn't pitched since April 27, will join Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan in the back end of a Pirates bullpen that has held its own in Donnelly's absence. His availability, too, will allow Russell to lighten the load on Meek and Hanrahan, who have been the primary go-to relievers in the seventh and eighth.

"You aren't going to be able to use Meek and Hanrahan every night," Russell said. "It covers us for more days in a row. It takes a lot of pressure off those last two or three innings to get to [closer Octavio] Dotel."

Donnelly made 11 appearances before a left oblique strain sidelined him for three weeks. He was scored upon in just two of those games, both of which were already out of hand when Donnelly entered.

The Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move on Thursday to open up a spot for Donnelly. Jeff Karstens could become the odd man out of the bullpen, or if Brian Burres struggles in his start on Wednesday night, he might find himself out of the rotation.

-- Jenifer Langosch

Hanrahan, Meek thriving in Bucs' bullpen

PITTSBURGH -- Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek live for nights like Tuesday.

With starter Zach Duke having surrendered just one run in six innings against the Phillies, Hanrahan and Meek bridged the gap to closer Octavio Dotel, each tossing a hitless inning in the Pirates' 2-1 win at Citizens Bank Park.

"Obviously, you don't mind coming in with a three- or four-run lead, but those tight games are fun," said Hanrahan, who pitched a perfect eighth. "That's what we live for down in the bullpen. That's where we make our money, and it's a lot more fun coming in a game like that than when you're down 10 runs and everybody's racing to the bat rack."

The numbers tell the story with Hanrahan, who has not allowed a run in his last eight innings. The right-hander has lowered his ERA -- which reached 15.75 after an April 22 appearance against the Brewers -- down to 4.70 and has reaffirmed his teammates' and coaches' faith in him.

Hanrahan's attitude is reflected in his right-handed counterpart, Meek, who was able to put behind him Sunday's blown save against the Cubs and shut down Philadelphia in the seventh. That lowered his ERA to 0.69, tops among all Major League relievers with at least 20 innings pitched.

"I just think that Hanny and I, we have similar stuff," Meek said. "We throw hard, and we throw the breaking ball. I just think if we have the lead, we pretty much know we're going to see some action, depending on what the starters do."

Manager John Russell feels the two feed off each other, sensing their determination to rise to the occasion, such as Tuesday, when six-time All-Star Roy Halladay went the distance for the Phillies.

"They take a lot of pride in it now," Russell said. "When the game's in their hands, they want to shut the door. They've obviously got the arms to do it. That's another added bonus they have. They both throw hard, they both have a very good breaking ball and they're the kind of guys you like to have in the situation. So they've done a really good job with it."

-- Matt Fortuna

LaRoche trying to get swing back

PITTSBURGH -- Andy LaRoche may have finished with just one hit in eight at-bats against the Phillies, but signs are apparent that the third baseman is making adjustments to get out of his recent offensive funk.

LaRoche spent extensive time working with hitting coach Don Long in Philadelphia, with the goal being to get LaRoche to open up his stance more at the plate. LaRoche had on recent at-bats inadvertently closed his stance after pitchers began working him more to the outside part of the plate.

Going 1-for-8 against the Phillies certainly wasn't ideal, but LaRoche's approach convinced both him and manager John Russell that he is getting back on track.

"It was a good feeling because in Chicago, I wasn't hitting the ball all that well," LaRoche said. "It felt good to actually square up a couple."

LaRoche entered the two-game series with just three hits in his previous 30 at-bats, a stark contrast to the 20-for-53 stretch that immediately preceded it.

"When he went through that really hot streak, he was using a lot of the field," manager John Russell said. "Yesterday against [Phillies ace Roy] Halladay, he had some pretty good at-bats against a very good pitcher. That's telling you he's seeing the ball much better."

-- Jenifer Langosch

Pirate Parrot crossing state with a purpose

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirate Parrot will be grabbing his helmet and hopping on a motorcycle next month, as he sets off on a "Cruise for the Cure" ride across the state of Pennsylvania. The Parrot's journey, which will span 350 miles from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, will raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer research.

The ride will begin on June 28 and culminate in Pittsburgh on June 30, just as the Pirates prepare to open a four-game series with the Phillies. In between, the Parrot will make stops in State College, Pa., on June 28 and Altoona, Pa., the next day, both homes to Pirates Minor League affiliates. Additional stops are expected to be added at a later date.

Fans can make either a one-time flat donation or a per-mile pledge. Fans can also will also view the Parrot's route across the state and watch video highlights of the trip.

-- Jenifer Langosch

Worth noting

PITTSBURGH -- Second baseman Aki Iwamura remains day-to-day with right hamstring tightness. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in both of the club's games in Philadelphia and continues to be available off the bench. Iwamura was on the field doing some lateral movement prior to Wednesday's games. ... Outfielder Quincy Latimore hit his third grand slam for the Class-A Advanced Bradenton Marauders on Tuesday, tying the Florida State League season record. Four other players have previously matched that feat. ... Left-hander Donnie Veal tossed seven scoreless innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday to pick up his third win of the year. Veal limited Scranton Wilkes-Barre to two hits, while walking three and striking out seven. The start was Veal's longest this season.

-- Jenifer Langosch

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.